End of Phase 1: 234 Film Tips

A journey is defined as an act of traveling from one place to another. My outlook on filmmaking is that it is an art of expression, and therefore a study of oneself. Throughout my years of watching films, studying films, making films, and discussing films I’ve learned so much about the art form. I relish in the fact that I plan to forever be a student of this art and sharing knowledge is what makes art prosper. I love sharing what I learn along the way because the ultimate satisfaction to me is helping and inspiring others. One day I set out to come up with useful tips about filmmaking.

Admittedly some of it was motivated by self-interest since I usually write down everything I learn and use it as constant reminders, but mainly I started compiling this list to hopefully help other filmmakers and provide something beneficial with my tweets. Something told me that people weren’t really interested in what I ate for lunch or when I was going to bed. So I started to tweet out my seemingly pointless list and the response has been so inspiring to me. I met so many other filmmakers through this practice and also had some claim they have been inspired by my list. I must say that I didn’t expect the reaction I received and it only made me want to do more.


This blog is a result of wanting to get more involved, as is the tutorials we post at http://www.youtube.com/flopitworks . This may seem verbose, but I must emphasize how much your support motivated me. That brings me to the nature of this blog post. I’m announcing today that the first batch of film tips reached 234 tips and that is an amazing milestone, but it must come to an end. This is the end of what I like to call “phase 1”.

However, this post isn’t just about bad news, quite the opposite. The end of phase 1 is just that, an end of a phase. An entirely new set of tips is being created and will go into effect April 2nd, 2014. Also you can celebrate that I’m releasing the first batch of film tips for you to keep. The list can be seen below and a link to a document can be downloaded here if you rather not copy and paste the entire list. With that being said, plans for phase 2 (I should start using roman numerals) aren’t finalized and I’m welcoming all suggestions for things to tweet, blog, and create. It is because of you that I did what I did, and it is because of you that I’m continuing forward. Please send in your suggestions and help me come up with plans inspired by you. Happy filming my comrades, colleagues, brothers, and sisters.


Shawn Lights’ Film Tips “Phase 1”

1. Led lights spilling too much? Use some black wrap to control the spill. #FilmTip

2. Opening of Touch of Evil and the sound booth scene in Strangers on a Train are useful resources to study camera movement #FilmTip

3. Back lighting is more cinematic. Light from the behind and fill. Reverse Lighting. #FilmTip

4. Our past failures shape us. Better to have done a bad film than not to have done anything. It gets better. #FilmTip

5. Working on a no budget? Write where there is only a handful of characters. I suggest 5 max. #FilmTip

6. You’re only as good as your team. Surround yourself with good filmmakers. #FilmTip

7. Magic Bullet Looks Easy Color Grading Tutorial: http://youtu.be/HBA5Zc3tmvQ

8. Filmmakers are psychologist with cameras #FilmTip

9. A quick way to decent lighting, back light your subject, then add some fill. #FilmTip

10. Think in terms of meaning, themes, symbolism, and message. #FilmTip

11. Try to make your actors as comfortable as possible. #FilmTip

12. On set monitors are great, still think it’ll be great to also show dailies. #FilmTip

13. Your film is two films. You edited the pictures together to create one. Then sound design creates another. #FilmTip

14. When filming outdoors, try putting the sun behind the subject and use a reflector if needed #FilmTip

15. Your reel is a major key to your career #FilmTip

16. Be respectful. No one wants to work with arrogant jerks or condescending attitudes #FilmTip

17. Encouragement and appreciation will keep your team happy to work with you. #FilmTip

18. Be prepared but be ready to adjust #FilmTip (via seth_shap)

19. Story will always be king. Concentrate on developing a good story. #FilmTip

20. Look out for old lenses. They’re cheaper and usually comes with some character. #FilmTip

21. Turn your tripod into a dolly by pulling one leg up and leaning the tripod forward and backwards #FilmTip

22. Be honest with your actors #FilmTip

23. Carry a notebook or something that takes notes with you at all times. Inspiration can come at any time. #FilmTip

24. Digital Cameras are like film emulsions. The give off different looks. Test them out before starting a project. #FilmTip

25. Write around what you have to eliminate headaches. #FilmTip

26. It’s better to tell the sorry than deliberately trying to be flashy. #FilmTip

27. Light for the F-stop you want #FilmTip

28. Amazon search “EZ Frame”. Reflector that can be mounted on a light stand to act as a flag. Very useful. #FilmTip

29. When editing, cutting with motion helps the cut go unnoticed #FilmTip

30. Getting feedback is a sure way to improve yourself. #FilmTip

31. In film we adapt to situations #FilmTip

32. Cinematographers in this age should sit with the colorist to ensure his or her vision remains. #FilmTip

33. The important thing is to know your tools’ limits. #FilmTip

34. Action scenes and commercials rely on story boards #FilmTip

35. It’s best to always schedule breaks. You don’t want to run on “E”. #FilmTip

36. Raise light to drop shadows #FilmTip

37. This is often overlooked. Add some eye light. Turn on the flash light on your cell phone if you have to. #FilmTip

38. There will never be a perfect camera. So stop waiting on one and use what you have. #FilmTip

39. Blog Post: The Shawn Lights Filmmaking Handbook. Ton of information gathered over the years. http://wp.me/p3cQIu-4s

40. Turn one shot into two with just camera movement to create a more cinematic feel. #FilmTip

41. Quick guide to cinematic images part 2: Depth of Field http://wp.me/p3cQIu-1i

42. A good source of inspiration for creative ideas is music. Put on some headphones and turn up the volume. #FilmTip (Via christiaanht)

43. Quick Guide to Cinematic Images Part 4: Inserts vs Detail Shots http://wp.me/p3cQIu-1u

44. Mixing different color temperatures together can create interesting images. #FilmTip

45. Quick Guide to Cinematic Images Part 3: Lighting Guides http://wp.me/p3cQIu-1t

46. You have a smartphone? Check out the shot designer app. #FilmTip

47. Rake light on background wall = good start #FilmTip

48. Take the soundtrack/musical score serious. It adds to the overall feel of the film. #FilmTip

49. If you can, limit the amount of hats you wear. Get people who can do certain jobs well. #FilmTip

50. Blog post: The Beauty of the Backlight http://wp.me/p3cQIu-3f

51. Best to think about your final aspect ratio before shooting. #FilmTip

52. Every time you do a project a lesson is learned. #FilmTip

53. If you haven’t yet, purchase a copy of “Moviemakers’ Master Class: Private Lessons from the World’s Foremost Directors” #FilmTip

54. Great cinematography is about context. That shot is beautiful because it’s essential to the story. #FilmTip

55. The style over substance black hole is always around, try to avoid it #FilmTip

56. Shoot as much as possible. Trying to make your first short perfect isn’t realistic. Mistakes build experience. #FilmTip

57. Simplicity is often beautiful. #FilmTip

58. Make your own way to success. The conventional ways don’t apply to todays digital age. #FilmTip

59. Know the effects of focal lenghts to creatively and effectively tell the story #FilmTip

60. Need a cheap location? Book a hotel room and go with an extremely small crew. #FilmTip

61. It takes several films in order for you to find your voice. Enjoy the journey! #FilmTip

62. Examining still images can help improve your skills. #FilmTip

63. Big window in the scene and you don’t have ND gel? Expose for the window and light inside. #FilmTip

64. Color grading should enhance what the cinematographer already created. #FilmTip

65. Blast light through a white bed sheet for diffusion. #FilmTip

66. Check out our color grading tutorial. This trick will have you grading in seconds. http://youtu.be/lM4DMsbDk3g?a

67. Assistant Director is such a valuable asset. #FilmTip

68. Never stop learning #FilmTip

69. Achieving David Fincher’s Color Palette http://wp.me/p3cQIu-o

70. Blog Post: How Music can become an Unseen Character in your Film! http://wp.me/p3cQIu-3F

71. You learn MUCH more from the mistakes you made than the things you did right #FilmTip (via G_ramFilms)

72. New directors are often intimidated by Actors. Truth is they’re usually intimidated by you too. Work together. #FilmTip

73. On set keep a marker handy and write your name on your water bottle. Money saver and stops confusion. #FilmTip

74. What lens you use is your creative choice. Several love wide lenses, Hitchcock loved normal, and Kurosawa loved telephoto lenses. #FimTip

75. Light the points where the actors hit #FilmTip

76. The script is merely a guideline. Go with what looks, feels and sounds natural, but don’t get carried away. #FilmTip (via christiaanht)

77. Always check to make sure you have multiple takes of the shot you need before leaving set/location #FilmTip (via KerryLofton)

78. Quick Guide to cinematic images Part 1: Lighting https://nashawnosborne.com/2013/02/22/18/

79. Light is your paintbrush. Shadows are your magic. #FilmTip

80. 3-point lighting is ok, but try side lighting your subject. #FilmTip

81. Try not to burn bridges #FilmTip

82. If you’re not early, you’re late. #FilmTip

83. Generally the background is always darker than subject #FilmTip

84. It’s actually more cinematic for the background to gradually blur out instead of shooting incredibly shallow. #FilmTip

85. Great lighting can be a simple setup. Doesn’t always have to be complicated. #FilmTip

86. When filming an over the shoulder it’s a nice effect to push in slowly to a close up as they come to the end of their lines. #Film Tip

87. Everyone on set deserves respect. From the Producer down to the PA. #FilmTip

88. Contrast ratio can be an easy way to achieve a certain mode. 4:1/8:1 is good for Drama. 2:1/3:1 for comedy or light hearted films #FilmTip

89. Hardest thing in film is finding your voice. Enjoy the journey. #FilmTip

90. There are no rules in Cinema, only guidelines. #FilmTip

91. You’re an artist. Your job is to provoke a reaction and emotion. Good or bad. #FilmTip

92. Try to keep your background from competing with your subject, by making it a few stops darker #FilmTip

93. Set process: Blocking, Light, Rehearse, Tweak, Shoot #FilmTip

94. Watch your favorite movies and try to figure out what is it about them that draws you to them so much. Camera, Story, Acting, etc. #FilmTip

95. Directing doesn’t necessarily mean you have to constantly be telling people what to do. Listening and considering is important. #FilmTip

96. Frame for what’s there, adjust for what happens #FilmTip

97. I know it hurts and I know you love that shot, but if it doesn’t fit with the overall film you have to cut it. #FilmTip

98. Don’t be afraid of shadows. What’s not lit is just as important as what is lit. #FilmTip

99. In my opinion, cinematic look isn’t shallow DOF. Cinematic look= lighting, camera movement, etc #FilmTip

100. The antagonist is the one who forces the hero to make decisions. In a way the antagonist is often the most important character. #FilmTip

101. There is no set way to directing. Learn what works for you. #FilmTip

102. We’re in a generation of quick cuts, but experiment by linking shot types with simple camera movement. #FilmTip

103. Back light when shooting a rain scene. It’ll make the rain pop. #FilmTip

104. Come up with your own ritual. Having a routine may help you. Find your element. #FilmTip

105. Having a positive attitude and working hard is a way to success #FilmTip

106. Formula for perfect Lighting = Whatever works #FilmTip

107. Establishing shots aren’t necessary, but it’s useful for eliminating geographic confusion. #FilmTip

108. Lenses are often more important than the camera. Good glass is always a good idea. #FilmTip

109. Way around the 180° degree rule, cross with camera movement. #FilmTip

110. Storyboards is a great way to easily convey your vision to the crew. #FilmTip

111. Nothing or no one can teach you more than just going out and shooting constantly. #FilmTip

112. Parallax is essential when it comes to cinematography #FilmTip

113. Make sure you expose for your highlights when using most digital cameras. #FilmTip

114. Usually it’s best for the Actor/Director relationship to feel like a partnership not a dictatorship #FilmTip

115. Low budget means work with a small crew and wear many hats. #FilmTip

116. Reflectors should always be on set #FilmTip

117. Practical lights is essential. Invest in some dimmable lamps. You can use them to set design and motivate your lighting. #FilmTip

118. As several DPs say, it’s better to make a great film than a great looking film #FilmTip

119. It’s sometimes easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission #FilmTip (via G_ramFilms)

120. Creativity is often the solution to limitations #FilmTip

121. Over shooting can be harmful. Useful coverage > Shooting every angle in the world. #FilmTip

122. Independent Directors should think in terms of editing. #FilmTip

123. I know they told you to white balance where white is white, but get creative with it. WB can change emotion. Terminator 2 anyone? #FilmTip

124. Mistakes happen. Key is to learn from them. #FilmTip

125. Filmmaking is a collaboration not a dictatorship. #FilmTip

126. Some lights for you to search: z96 light, CN600 SA, 500, 600, and 900 Led lights. Amazon and Ebay is your friend. #FilmTip

127. Wide shot, over the shoulder, reverse OTS, and close ups is a standard that works. #FilmTip

128. Set design can make an uninteresting room into something amazing. #FilmTip

129. 4 pages a day and you have written a feature film in 30 days #FilmTip

130. Light meters aren’t meaningless in the digital age. Still immensely helpful. #FilmTip

131. Blocking action is a big ingredient to making images look cinematic. Yes even that guy seemingly randomly walking pass the camera. #FilmTip

132. Cinema is all about illusion. #FilmTip

133. Filmmaking is psychological manipulation using stories, cameras, sound, and light. #FilmTip

134. Free writing or writing words that comes to your mind on a piece of paper can help you come up with something creative. #FilmTip

135. Try to always do an extra take for safety and good measure. #FilmTip

136. Trust your eyes when setting up a shot. #FilmTip

137. Technical things can be learned. Heart, passion, and dedication is all on you #FilmTip

138. Get the *beep* Key light off of the background #FilmTip

139. Pay attention to back light when you watch movies. It’s almost a necessity. #FilmTip

140. Filmmakers should read novels. Novels help you think visually. #FilmTip

141. Hard light usually is better for wide and master shots. As you get close, soften up. #FilmTip

142. Using sound design you can contrast, contradict, or compliment the image. The options are endless. #FilmTip

143. Sound is 50% of the project, take it seriously. #FilmTip

144. If you can’t borrow, rent. If you can’t rent, lease. If you can’t lease, buy. #FilmTip (via ggallant1)

145. Usually when you use lenses on either side of normal (wide & Telephoto) things are more interesting. #FilmTip

146. For every shoot day there should be a pre-production planning day. #FilmTip

147. Never underestimate the importance of lighting when filming. #FilmTip

148. Food on set is a must. #FilmTip

149. Multiple lights near each other creates multiple shadows. Bouncing them together works. #FilmTip

150. Cinematographers should know their cameras limitations. #FilmTip

151. It’s important to ask yourself what do you want the audience to feel before shooting a scene. #FilmTip

152. Filmmakers rely on their crew to make the film the best they can. #FilmTip

153. Practical lights is essential. Invest in some dimmable lamps. You can use them to set design and motivate your lighting. #FilmTip

154. The internet is extremely important for Indie Filmmakers. Don’t just wait out for Film Festivals #FilmTip

155. Take pre-production serious. Be prepared. Work smarter not harder. #FilmTip

156. Cinematographers and DPs should visit art museums. Pay attention to the lighting in paintings. Renaissance era is my favorite. #FilmTip

157. Take a moment to look at how the light in a room is falling. No matter where you’re at; restaurant, hotel, etc. It’ll train your eye. #FilmTip

158. How the past can shape your future. Examining Paintings. http://wp.me/p3cQIu-3U

159. If you can’t draw, toys are a great way to create storyboards. Just take snapshots. #FilmTip

160. Don’t have the actors’ call time the same as the crew’s call time. Nothing more annoying than sitting around waiting for hours. #FilmTip

161. When editing music videos, making cuts according to the music/beat is a quick way to make a nice video. #FilmTip

162. Let your actors motivate the camera movement #FilmTip

163. There is a thin line between tech head and filmmaker. #FilmTip

164. Don’t be afraid to take risks. #FilmTip

165. Try visiting locations prior to shooting #FilmTip

166. Watch “Living in Oblivion” for what not to do on set #FilmTip

167. Surround yourself with other creative minds/people #FilmTip

168. Planning to release in CinemaScope aspect ratio and you’re shooting full HD? Use the motion tool in editing to create a crane shot #FilmTip

169. Remember what effect lenses have. Wide lenses exaggerates distance, telephoto compresses. #FilmTip

170. Silence is loud. #FilmTip

171. Negative space is sometimes more important than positive space for good frame composition. #FilmTip (via KraussVisuals)

172. The key to a character is his or her eyes #FilmTip

173. If there isn’t much movement in the scene, you may be able to manipulate your shutter speed to increase sharpness. #FilmTip

174. Use black wrap on barn doors to control spill from lights, especially LEDs. #FilmTip

175. Get as much mileage out of a camera setup as possible #FilmTip

176. Can’t get a back light without seeing the light stand? Hand a silver reflector in the back and bounce a light. #FilmTip

177. Most people upgrade cameras before buying some lights. Without light it doesn’t matter what camera you have. #FilmTip

178. F-Stop affects DoF, ISO affects noise, Shutter Speed affects motion, All affect your exposure. #FilmTip

179. Fog/smoke is often used on Hollywood production #FilmTip

180. Use speed ramping to easily go from normal motion to slow or fast motion when editing. #FilmTip

181. Pay attention to the growth of LED technology. It’s both economical and comfortable for actors. Gives off little heat. #FilmTip

182. Low angles and High angles are more interesting than eye level. #FilmTip

183. Test out different angles with lights. #FilmTip

184. Don’t try to be a one man band. Filmmaking is a teambased business. #FilmTip

185. Need locations? Check out airbnb.com #FilmTip

186. Write everything down. #FilmTip

187. Pools of light. Showing what is most important. Directing the eye. pic.twitter.com/1C7WS9OICP

188. Checking a take? Think of Performances, composition, camera movement, background and foreground action, production design, and editing. #FilmTip

189. General rule: a shot has to change by 30° for it to cut with the previous shot. #FilmTip

190. Motivated lighting makes for moving cinematography #FilmTip (via REALJoelKaye)

191. The beauty of cinema is that it can encompass anything in the world. From philosophy to music. What is it you want to explore? #FilmTip

192. The great directors know how to use camera movement to create several shots in one take #FilmTip

193. Cinema is a perfect blend of art and science #FilmTip

194. Locations add production value. #FilmTip

195. Mastering the art of staging will lead to cinematic images and moments. #FilmTip

196. It helps to see foreign films. Observing different approaches to cinema is great. #FilmTip

197. Assembly edits can be a great way to give an idea of how the story flows. #FilmTip

198. Digitally down sampling can allow one shot to turn into two. Like a Wide into a medium. #FilmTip

199. Craft beverages should always include coffee, tea, and water. #FilmTip

200. Having trouble planning your shoot? Check out Chimpanzee production software. #FilmTip

201. Filmmakers are now forced to be both filmmakers and marketing specialist. #FilmTip

202. How Music can become an Unseen Character in your Film! http://wp.me/p3cQIu-3F

203. Filmmakers often over complicate things. Keep it simple. #FilmTip

204. Camera movement best done subtly. #FilmTip

205. Often we forget about time and how holding on a shot can have a big dramatic effect. #FilmTip

206. At the end of the day a camera, tripod, light, and lenses is all you truly need. #FilmTip

207. This is simple but it’s true: Practice, Practice, Practice. #FilmTip

208. Picture profiles are like film stocks on these new digital cameras. #FilmTip

209. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Our most creative moments often come from making mistakes and fixing them. #FilmTip

210. It’s better to work with the natural light on the location than to work against it. #FilmTip

211. Lighting through windows can help hide your lights and diffuse them. #FilmTip

212. If you do your preproduction well, the actual filming becomes easier. #FilmTip

213. Avoid these words at all costs. They can kill your budget. – “We’ll fix it in post.” #FilmTip (via G_ramFilms)

214. Some directors never say action. Just rolling and then the action starts when the actors are ready. #FilmTip

215. It is my opinion that night shots are the most beautiful of all, because light breaks through the shadows in pools. #FilmTip

216. Try not to use equipment just because you have it. Everything should be motivated by the story. #FilmTip

217. Start building a team as soon as possible #FilmTip

218. Ever think about lighting a scene outside with the headlights on a car? #FilmTip

219. The story is the most important part of filmmaking. The story is what grabs us. #FilmTip

220. Given you casted good actors, let them give you their input. Great things happen when you work together. #FilmTip

221. Shooting towards a couch in a house or apartment it’s usually a good idea to pull the couch away from the wall. #FilmTip

222. When it comes to outdoor shots it takes you scouting like a soldier documenting the changes of light as time progresses #FilmTip

223. You have to know when to comprise and when to stand your ground #FilmTip

224. Filming in natural and low light, you have to strategically place your subjects #FilmTip

225. Pace each shot. Slow heightens emotion, Fast heightens action. #FilmTip

226. Separate your subject from the background #FilmTip

227. Casting is one of the most important aspects of making a film. #FilmTip

228. Pay attention to the color palette. Check out Adobe Kuler for help. #FilmTip

229. Rule of thirds is more of a guide than a rule. #FilmTip

230. The conventional color grade is to cool off the shadows and warm up the midtones. #FilmTip

231. Closeups are like underlines, it’s important not to overuse it. #FilmTip

232. General rule, don’t fight with the sun because you’ll lose. Easier to gel lights than to gel windows. #FilmTip

233. Crew is never mad at wrap up beers! #FilmTip

234. A portable slider is an easy way for you to be able to capture cinematic shots. #FilmTip

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